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1:1 Meditation/Breathwork Sessions, Thinking Through Writing, Pliability App

🤸‍♀️ Stretch 46

Quote from a recent conversation between Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham and economist Tyler Cowen:

“People are afraid to think really big. There are multiple reasons. One, it seems overreaching. Two, it seems like it would be an awful lot of work.

There’s a deceptively simple but powerful message in there for me:

  1. Embrace yourself as someone who can make incredible things happen.

  2. Be willing to do the work.

This edition is all about sharing some ideas on how I’ve been trying to do both.

🤸‍♀️ IN THIS WEEK'S STRETCH:

  • 1:1 Meditation/Breathwork Sessions. Using visualizations and identity words to live a life by design—not by default.

  • How to think more clearly. Learn to make better decisions by thinking through writing.

  • The Pliability App. A great combo of breathwork, meditation, and yin yoga/stretching.

💨 CREATEMEDITATION—1:1 MEDITATION/BREATHWORK SESSIONS

I recently signed up for one-on-one meditation/breathwork sessions with Carson Finkle from CreateMeditation.

I was intrigued after hearing him speak on a podcast about the unique way he builds his sessions, integrating music, affirmations, meditation, visualizations, and breathwork.

Basically, he creates a personalized 60-90 minutes guided session for you—weaving in your responses to a set of questions he sends you beforehand, and interestingly, a playlist of songs you’ve selected.

The intention of this approach is to tap into and rewire your subconsciousness, and create the person you want to be and the life you want to live.

🙄🙄🙄🙄

I know, I know! This is the kind of stuff I would’ve rolled my eyes at just a couple of years ago.

But then I also laughed at breathwork and meditation. And I dismissed yoga as being slow and boring.

So I’m not listening to this lazy “dismiss-what-I-don’t-know” instinct anymore.

Because here’s the thing:

I have lots of ideas and capabilities, but unfortunately, I have just as many self-limiting beliefs and thought patterns.

And I’ve come to realize that if left unattended, these are going to stop me from doing all the cool things I want to do with my life.

SO… it’s up to me to do the hard work here.

As spiritual teacher, Michael Singer says: “You live in there. It’s your responsibility to take care of your inner environment and to clean it up, just like it’s your responsibility to keep your house clean and to make your bed. The human mind is brilliant and powerful, but the default of your inside if you do nothing about it is the lowest possible state.”

Don’t get me wrong.

I’m not saying we’re not good enough and we need fixing.

I’m saying we all have limitless potential and (if we want to) it’s our responsibility to put the work in to discover what our highest possible state of mind could be.

Who could we become? What could we achieve?

I want to put in the hard work to explore these questions for myself.

Actively create that person and that life.

Not just roll along with whatever’s going on in my mind and whatever life throws at me.

Live a life by design—not by default.

So, with that grand idea in mind, I decided to sign up for Carson’s sessions, and I’m so glad I did.

There are two techniques, in particular, I’d like to discuss: identity words, and visualizations.

🙋‍♀️ Actively shaping your identity

In the first session with Carson, we defined my “identity words”—the characteristics and traits I’d like to strengthen within myself.

I’ll give you a simple example.

One of my identity words is “focused.” (There are 6 in total.)

Like many people, I struggle with procrastination and staying focused on tasks. I would define myself as a “distracted person” and see it as a negative trait. There’d be a lot of mental turmoil over what I should’ve done, didn’t do, need to do, want to do. Bla-bla-bla.

Negative and unproductive thinking. A waste of time and energy.

Instead, I’ve now defined what it means to “be focused.”

For me, it means I…

  • am clear on my priority tasks for the day.

  • am realistic about what I can achieve.

  • when distracted, get back on track quickly.

  • respect my time. If it’s on the calendar, I get it done. No internal negotiations or excuses.

Then, when I find myself struggling to focus, I visualize my focused self and ask questions like, "What would she do in this situation? How would she tackle this? Which decision would she make?"

I try to embody my focused self, and how she would look, act and feel.

It’s a super subtle shift but it’s usually enough for my brain to switch gears and tap into that focused side of me.

And with enough repetition, this will eventually become habitual. That’s the beauty of neuroplasticity. You can change and rewire your brain.

This idea of defining identity words is similar to what James Clear talks about in his best-selling book on habit formation Atomic Habits:

“Most people try to change habits by focusing on the outcomes, on what they want to achieve. Instead, we should focus on identity-based habits, and focus on who we wish to become.”

Visualizing yourself embodying this identity

At the end of every session, there’s a visualization exercise.

I used to turn my nose up at visualizations. I think because of books like Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, making people believe that through positive thinking you can achieve anything you can imagine. For example, just dream of having a lot of money, act like you have it, and it will come to you.

Of course, not how it works!

Visualizations are not about wishful thinking. They’re about being deliberate in shaping your future thoughts and behavior.

Visualizations are a completely normal thing in the world of sports training. Athletes use it as part of their training, like a basketball player imagining themselves making a free throw over and over.

Studies have shown that this kind of mental practice can improve actual performance. The brain fires up in similar ways whether the athlete is physically practicing or just imagining the action.

This works in the exact same way for us non-athletes, and it’s an incredible feature of our brain we should all use to our advantage.

A growing body of studies suggests our unconscious minds cannot tell the difference between a real experience and a vividly imagined fake experience.

There’s lots of ongoing research here but several studies show that visualization can create physical changes in the brain’s neural pathways, and leads to increased activation in brain regions associated with future thinking and positive affect.

So when we imagine something very clearly, our brain reacts as if it's actually happening.

And that of course has an impact on what you think, how you feel, and what you do.

So back to my identity word of “focused.”

(I feel a bit silly sharing this but hey, this is all in the spirit of vulnerability and openness!)

In the morning, before I sit down to work, I close my eyes for just a couple of seconds, and I embody what it feels like to be in flow and to be completely present in the work I’m doing.

It’s relatively easy to do because I know what that feels like. I’ve been there before.

These few seconds put the Focused Charlotte in the driver's seat, priming how I start my morning.

Try it for yourself

Pick an identity word. One trait you’d like to strengthen in yourself.

Your intentions and visualizations could be around being more patient, generous, social, or playful.

Visualize yourself behaving that way in specific situations where you know you tend to struggle. You can rely on past situations where you didn’t behave the way you would’ve liked, and imagine yourself doing it differently.

You are essentially training your brain to produce that outcome in real life.

Say, for instance, you’d like to focus on being more assertive.

Define what that means for you. How would a more assertive version of you act, and look? What would it feel like? (Think back to a moment when you felt that way, and try to emulate the feelings in your body.)

Then, visualize yourself in a situation where you’d like to be more assertive.

For example, preparing for a challenging meeting. Instead of just thinking about what you’ll say, you can also picture in your head how you’ll walk into the room, how you’ll speak up, and how you’ll handle interruptions or abrasive comments.

And then the next time you’re confronted with a similar situation, it will feel familiar. And with enough practice and repetition, it will become part of who you are.

P.S. If you find any of this intriguing, definitely sign up for an intro call with Carson.

💭 HOW TO THINK MORE CLEARLY

I know of several friends grappling with some big decisions in their lives. Whether or not to stay in a relationship, change jobs, move countries. Unclear on what they want or how to decide.

So they let things run their course. “We’ll see what happens.”

I feel like a broken record but I genuinely believe the number #1 thing to do here is to think through writing.

(Secretly I mean journaling but I say thinking through writing because journaling puts people off for some reason 😜.)

We’re generally taught to look outward for answers, permission, and approval.

Through writing, you can look inward.

And that’s not easy. It takes time and effort. But I think it’s the most important work you could possibly do if you want to figure stuff out.

This excerpt from Greg Campion on writing really resonated with me:

“We’re in consumption mode almost all the time. We’re not exploring our own minds. We’re only taking in the ideas and thoughts of others. So when do we think our own thoughts?

Not too often, if we’re honest. In the shower? Yes. But that’s mostly because we don’t want our phones to get wet. On a walk? Perhaps. But only if you’re capable of resisting the urge of your favorite podcast, that audiobook you’ve been meaning to get to, or the work call you probably shouldn’t miss.

In short, for all of the wonders of unlimited access to information that the modern world provides, we ironically have almost no time built into our schedules to actually think our own thoughts. To really figure out what we want. What our next move should be. How we should react to that situation that’s stressing us out.

We’re arguably concentrating all of the most important decisions in our lives into those few short, passing moments when our phones aren’t dominating our attention.”

Here’s something I deeply believe in, because I’ve seen it in myself time and time again:

When you write, your decision-making process becomes sharper, clearer, and simpler.

Why?

Because you now know who you are. You know your values, what you stand for, what matters to you, and what doesn’t.

And no one else can tell you that but YOU.

📲 PLIABILITY APP—BREATHWORK, MEDITATION & STRETCHING COMBO

New favorite app alert: the Pliability”Daily stretching videos for greater mobility and flexibility.”

I’ve come to really look forward to these sessions because they’re short 20-25 minutes videos, with a focus on slow and long holds (sometimes as long as 4 minutes.)

As you’re stretching, the voice reminds you to pay attention to your body and to focus on your breath.

(For anyone skeptical of breathwork and meditation, this app could be a nice introduction to the world of mindfulness!)

The Welcome Series is great. You can try it out for free for 7 days (zero affiliation with this app, just love it so wanted to share!)

Welcome Series on Pliability App

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